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Sunday 24 May 2015

To Bee, Or Not To Bee

Waggle Dance is a game about Bees and the dance they do to make honey. Published by Grublin Games Publishing via Kickstarter, it is a worker placement game designed for two to four players, aged ten and up, in which the workers—or Bees—are simple six-sided dice. Each turn the players roll their dice—or Bees—and then in turn, place them according to the numbers rolled. From one turn to the next, the Bees want to expand their hive, claim and hatch the eggs laid by their Queen, collect nectar, trade eggs and nectar, make honey, and gain orders from the Queen Bee. As the Forebee for their hive, the aim for each player is to expand his hive and get each Honeycomb Tile to produce honey. The first Forebee to do so wins the game.

Each turn is divided into two phases—Day and Night, a Day/Night card being used to indicate which phase. In the Day phase each Forebee rolls his Bees and takes it turn to place them in turn, either on the Forebee’s Hive or the Action Cards. There are seven of these. Four of the Action Cards—’Claim Tile’, ‘Hatch Egg’, ‘Trade’, and ‘Draw a Queen Bee Card’—are marked with six die faces, numbered one through six. When a Bee of the matching number is placed on one of these positions, another cannot be placed there, so it is possible to block other Forebees. There are actually six ‘Claim Nectar’ Action Cards, each corresponding to six different flowers, and like the other Action Cards—’Hatch Egg and Make Honey’ and ‘Move Nectar’, there is no limit to the numbers of Bees that can be placed on them.

To add a new Honeycomb Tile to his Hive, a Forebee must place a Bee on the ‘Claim Tile’ Action Card. To add a new Bee-or ‘Newbee’—a Forebee needs to have both an Egg and a pair of Bees with matching numbers on a Honeycomb tile, and then place a Bee on the ‘Hatch Eg’ Action Card. To get a new Egg, a Bee must be placed on the ‘Claim Egg’ Action Card, the new Egg being added to an empty tile. ‘Claim Nectar’ gives a Forebee the nectar needed to make honey, but only the two Forebees with the most Bees on a flower—there are six flowers—can collect nectar from that flower. A Forebee can swap Eggs or nectar for the nectar of the colour he wants by placing a Bee on the ‘Trade’ Action Card. 

The ‘Make Honey & Move Nectar’ Action Card is the most complex in Waggle Dance. Move Nectar enables a Forebee to move nectar from one tile to another, but needs to have Bees of matching numbers on both the tile the nectar is being moved from and to. Much like the ‘Hatch Egg’ Action Card, the ‘Make Honey’ Action Card requires a pair of Bees with matching numbers on the tile plus four nectar of the same colour. Once done, the tile is turned over to its Honey side. Lastly, the ‘Draw Queen Bee Card’ Action Card lets a Forebee draw Queen Bee Cards, which grant special actions, such as ‘Bounty’ which allows a Forebee to claim extra Nectar, ‘Overtime’ that lets him change number of a rolled Bee, and ‘Alchemy’, which enables him to make Honey using nectar of two different colours.  Each Queen Bee Card can only be used once.

At game start, each Forbee receives six Bees (dice) and three Honeycomb Tiles. The base objective is turn five Honeycomb Tiles into honey, but this can be increased to seven or eight depending upon the desired game length. Whatever the length, turning all of them into Honey first wins the game.

Each turn is divided into Day and Night Phases. In the Day Phase, every Forebee rolls his Bees and assigns them. In the Night Phase, each Action is resolved in strict order of the Action cards. At the end of each turn, the Day/Night card is passed onto the next player, so the first player changes from turn to turn.

The first challenge of Waggle Dance is that a Forebee must work with the Bees he rolled and this can hinder his plans. The second is that the core Action Cards—‘Hatch Egg’ and ‘Make Honey’—need be set up beforehand to work. The third is that the other Forebees face the same challenges and will often hinder each other. What this means is that Waggle Dance is more of a tactical game rather than a strategic one as long range planning is not possible, a Forebee having to reconsider his actions and his plans from one turn to the next. This also means that Waggle Dance is not a complex worker placement game.

Waggle Dance is finely balanced in its actions and play. A forebee needs to keep an eye on the actions of his fellow forebees and to not focus too much on one action over another. For example, it is too easy to concentrate on hatching eggs and gaining more Bees when others are making honey!

Unfortunately there is little actual player interaction in Waggle Dance. Nor is it as good with two players as it is with three or four. Nevertheless, Waggle Dance has much going for it.

Waggle Dance is very nicely presented, with appropriate artwork and even the pips on the dice being honeycomb shaped and having bees instead of ones! Mechanically light and easy, with a charming and engaging theme, Waggle Dance is both suitable for a family audience and the hardened gamer who still wants a challenge.

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